‘Gang of Three’ - Senate Dems Buck Party to Vote for GOP Budget
HARTFORD, CT — Democratic leaders in the state Senate were blindsided Friday when three of their members voted in favor of the Republican budget proposal, which was offered as an amendment to the underlying Democratic budget.
Sens. Joan Hartley, Gayle Slossberg, and Paul Doyle bucked their party and voted for the Republican budget proposal, which they say included the structural changes they had called for when they voted in favor of the labor package. The Republican amendment passed on a 21-15 vote, and was shortly followed by a vote on the amended budget, which also passed 21-15.
The trio did not tell Senate President Martin Looney or Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff they would vote in favor of the Republican budget.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would veto the Republican budget.
“I believe the amended budget that passed in the Senate today is unbalanced, and if it were to reach my desk I would veto it,” Malloy said. “It relies on too many unrealistic savings, it contains immense cuts to higher education, and it would violate existing state contracts with our employees, resulting in costly legal battles for years to come.”
Malloy said the Senate vote was a surprise to him, but it doesn’t change his position.
“It may represent a shift in the dynamic of the General Assembly. But it isn’t a shift for me. I have consistently been in favor of reaching a sensible, realistic budget – one that is balanced honestly and that continues to make progress on Connecticut’s long-term fiscal challenges,” Malloy said before 9 p.m.
Sen. Bob Duff and Senate President Martin Looney said they were taken by surprise by their members decision to vote in favor of Republican budget which passes 21-15Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Friday, September 15, 2017
The House was waiting to take up the Republican budget Friday at 5:30 p.m. and staff member for the House Democratic caucus said they were expected to debate the budget.
Doyle said during the debate that he didn’t care if he didn’t get re-elected as a result, because it was the right thing to do for the state of Connecticut.
The Democrat’s budget proposal was a two-year, $41.4 billion plan that would have increased spending 4.1 percent in 2018 and 1.5 percent in 2019. The Republican’s two-year, $40.7 billion state budget, which increases spending 2.5 percent in 2018 and 1.1 percent in 2019.
While the Democratic budget proposal was technically balanced for the next two years, according to the fiscal note released by the Office of Fiscal Analysis earlier Friday, the plan would have created deficits of $1.44 billion, $2.16 billion, and $2.7 billion in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
The Republican budget proposal largely uses savings from changes they hope to make to the labor agreement in 2027 and applies those savings to the current two budget years. The Republican budget document wasn’t ready before debate on the budget bill began around 3 p.m. Friday. OFA, however, said shortly after 3 p.m. that the Republican plan would also create large budget deficits in future years. According to the OFA analysis, the GOP plan would create deficits of $1.24 billion, $2.14 billion, and $2.81 billion in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
“The state of Connecticut is certainly in a bad place today,” Doyle said. “That’s without dispute.”
He said he thought Connecticut needed a bipartisan budget, adding after the vote that it was the most difficult decision of his career.
He said he made the decision this morning and believes the future of the state of Connecticut was hanging in the balance.
“People won’t be happy with me, but I think it’s in the best interest of the state of Connecticut,” Doyle said.
Senate Democratic leaders, however, were outraged.
Duff said the Republican budget has $1.5 billion of unknown labor savings and is “full of gimmicks.”
He said they haven’t even had enough time to digest it because they received it a few hours before the debate.
“I don’t even know what’s in this thing,” Duff said.
The Republican budget doesn’t have the bonding and insurance surcharges for crumbling foundations and it doesn’t have the additional money for the city of Hartford.
Looney said they were focused on getting an agreement on their budget and weren’t focused on the Republican budget.
“We weren’t told some members were voting ‘yes’ — there were speeches written well in advance of debate,” Duff said. “The question was asked and we didn’t get a clear answer.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said if they had listened to the demands their members made during the July vote on the labor savings then they would have included them in their budget proposal. Fasano said they included all 12 demands made by the trio of Democratic Senators.
“They believe the same thing we do — that we have to have structural change,” Fasano said.
Like the Democratic legislative leaders, Fasano said he did not know that the trio of Democrats was going to vote in favor of the Republican budget.
The Working Families Party was swift in their condemnation of the Democratic Senators.
“Just moments ago, as our legislature inched closer to a budget deal, three corporate Democrats in the State Senate betrayed the people of Connecticut, potentially prolonging a stalemate that could drive Connecticut into the red and have devastating consequences for working families,” the party said in an email.
They encouraged their supporters to call their lawmakers and “stop this cruel and senseless budget.”
Republicans speak to reporters after getting their budget passed by the state SenatePosted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Friday, September 15, 2017